Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How to Select a Key Control Method for Your New Multifamily Property

Pile of keys
Marketing. Leasing. Hiring. Whether it’s new construction or a recent acquisition, a lot goes into setting up a multifamily property for business. To provide a good experience for your residents and protect your property’s reputation in the future, choosing a key and access control solution should be on your list of things to do before you start signing new leases.

There are dozens of options to consider, with the most common being the following three methods:

  • A manual process using a pegboard and logbook
  • Electronic key control systems
  • Smart locks

When evaluating the best option for your property, ask yourself the following questions:

What does your target market want?

As with any other decision you make about your property, it’s important to consider who will be living in your community. Millennials, for example, often want apartments with smart locks. Older demographics, on the other hand, might feel strongly about having traditional metal keys instead of smart locks. One man, along with a group of fellow tenants, even sued his landlord over a smart lock system that required a phone app to enter the building, which he felt presented privacy concerns.

If you do stick with physical keys, what’s the best way to manage them? A pegboard system combined with a physical log is less expensive upfront, but an electronic system can securely store keys and capture a digital record of who’s accessed those keys. Put yourself in your residents’ shoes: Which method would make you feel most safe?

Does the key management method you’re considering fit with your brand?

For upscale communities, the key and access control method you use should reflect the message you want to convey. If you take a prospect on a tour using a key attached to a paper label, for example, that looks unprofessional — not to mention unsafe. On the other hand, using a system that automatically records when keys are removed and even notifies the resident by text or email when someone has removed the key to their home provides a higher level of security and sense of safety for the resident.

In other scenarios, electronic locks might make sense, such as if you’re branding your property as a smart community. If you do go this route, however, bear in mind that smart locks don’t necessarily eliminate the need for key control, as you still need a way to manage any traditional metal keys (backup keys for the keyless entry system, keys to storage sheds, etc.) as well as any smart tokens that come with the smart lock system.

What are your other properties using?

Think about the key control methods you’re using at other properties. Is there a certain method or system that works well? Are there communities that need a better way of controlling access to keys and apartments?

Consider using the same method across multiple properties. This strategy is beneficial for a few reasons:

  • Employee training can be standardized.
  • Reporting is in the same format, allowing you to get an accurate high-level view of activity across properties.
  • Purchasing and vendor management are easier.

While every property is unique, it’s important for every one of them to protect its residents through effective key control.

Is it scalable?

As you assume responsibility for additional properties in the future, how easy would it be to roll out the access control or key management solution to those communities? For the reasons mentioned above, standardizing a solution across multiple properties is a smart move.

How versatile is it?

Consider whether a system includes additional features or applications that can help you save time and get more value from your purchase. If you’re using an electronic system to manage keys, you might have the option to collect prospect data by scanning driver’s licenses, managing resident packages, tracking employee time clocks, and managing work orders.

Some communities are even taking advantage of smart lock systems to offer prospects self-guided tours (though property management professionals have divided opinions on whether or not this is a good strategy).

Manual key control methods, of course, are the least versatile, since they serve one purpose only: to store keys and record who’s using them when.

With on-site personnel being strapped for time and the constant pressure to do more with less, there are benefits to having technology that can multitask. When deciding what capabilities you want out of a technology investment, take the time to think through your staff’s daily tasks, how they interact with each other, and any software you have in place already.

Will on-site personnel get the training and support they need?

With multifamily turnover rates hovering around the 30 percent mark, an efficient training process is a must. Having a technology partner that offers customized training services can help alleviate the training burden, allowing you to focus on helping your new team members hone job-based skills rather than spending a chunk of your time on showing them how to use the technology and applications your property uses.

While there are plenty of tasks related to a newly built or acquired multifamily property that can occupy your time and attention, spending the time to develop an effective key control solution will be worth the investment. Not sure if you’re heading in the right direction? Download our whitepaper "Six Common Key Control Mistakes Property Owners Make."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Customer Tip: Ensure Your Key Control Doesn’t Take a Holiday

Businessman handing keys to colleague with Christmas lights in backgroundAre you planning a vacation this holiday season? Make sure your key control doesn’t also take time off by completing the following tasks before you leave:

With these precautions, you can rest assured that your keys are secure and accounted for while you’re enjoying your time off with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How to Make Your Security Measures More Effective

Using keys to open a doorWhen you think about security threats to your business, do you think about somebody smashing a window and running off with a computer? What about a mysterious hacker from a distant country holding your proprietary data for ransom?

While those two scenarios are certainly risks you should prepare for, oftentimes the biggest security threat to a business is far less obvious and rarely prepared for. Did you know that employee theft costs U.S. businesses $50 billion a year? In fact, privilege abuse and human errors are among the leading causes of data breaches.

Locked doors, gates, and security cameras are great first steps toward making your facility more secure — whether it's a single office building or a sprawling complex — but lacking the ability to hold your employees accountable will still cost you in the long run.

Here are some steps you can take to improve the security of your business that go beyond the basics.

Establish Security Protocols

Security cameras and access-controlled doors and gates are great, but they can also be rendered meaningless if they aren't used correctly. For example, how easy is it to get into your secure buildings during regular working hours? Could somebody who isn't employed by you follow an actual employee through an open door and easily gain access to valuable assets or information?

That's why it's important to have established security protocols and best practices. Access to secure areas should be restricted to only those who need it and using identification badges would make it easy to identify people who don't belong in certain areas. Also, consider securing building, equipment, and vehicle keys when they're not in use in a locked box or electronic key control system to prevent misuse or the potential loss of a key.

Foster a Culture of Security

Like basic physical security measures, new protocols will only be as effective as the employees who stick to them. If your employees are unaware of the new rules or simply don't practice them, they leave the business and their fellow employees at risk of theft or violent attacks.

Be sure to regularly train your employees on new security practices and emphasize the importance of adhering to the protocols. You must foster a culture of security if you want your measures to work, and employees need to understand they'll be held accountable for any security breaches.

Maintain Access Logs

Knowing who accessed what and when is a critical part of holding employees accountable. For example, poor key management could lead to an unauthorized person using a company vehicle with no oversight. If that person was in a wreck, your business could then be held liable for not restricting that employee's access to the vehicle. And if your access logs don't show the keys every being checked out, how could you defend yourself?

Whatever security measures you take, be sure you have a way to accurately track access to keys and secure assets and areas. Use an electronic key control system to automatically log key activity, prevent key misuse, and hold employees accountable.

For more tips on protecting your business, check out our eBook "Five Steps to Make Your Facility More Secure."

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Finding Success When the Automotive Market Is Down

Hand holding up lightbulb in front of chalkboard reading 'New Mindset, New Results'
Since the Great Recession, the automotive industry has been on the upswing, but the tides are turning. In 2019, unsold vehicles hit a 10-year high, with automakers and dealers holding on to a 78-day supply. This comes amidst other industry challenges: job cuts, a shortage of skilled technicians, the prospect of self-driving vehicles upsetting vehicle ownership, rising interest rates, and more.

In response to this market shift, dealers are feeling pessimistic about what the future holds for the industry. If you’re in that camp, it’s not hard to see why you feel this way. For a successful 2020 — regardless of what the market does — start with the strategies below.

Look for Untapped Opportunities to Save Money

When you’re strapped for cash, even seemingly small costs can mount quickly. Take the time to evaluate what unnecessary costs or inefficiencies are cutting into your profits. One dealership made the decision to simply offer customers paper cups they could fill at the water fountain rather than providing bottled water, saving $6,000 per year.

If there are tools available to help you address inefficiencies, weigh the investment against the money it’ll save you in the long run. For example, having a documented key control process and using an electronic method for tracking keys can help cut down on the cost of replacing lost or stolen key fobs or even vehicles.

In some cases, you might not need to make any changes to your operations to create more room in your budget. Dealer reimbursements are a great way to recoup money for something you’re already doing. Let’s say your service department offers transportation to customers bringing their vehicles in for warranty work. Some manufacturers, such as GM, will reimburse a few dollars each way for shuttle rides. If your manufacturer reimbursed $5 per ride, that’d be $500 for 100 shuttle rides a month, or $6,000 a year.

Whatever changes you make to help your bottom line, be sure they won’t be detrimental to the customer experience.

Address Threats to Your Revenue and Reputation

Don’t let thieves help themselves to your hard-earned profits or hurt your good name. Protect your business from common types of theft. Some examples include the following:

  • The Craigslist scam, which involves a thief posting a vehicle for sale in an online marketplace and then stealing it from a dealership’s lot once the crook finds a buyer for the vehicle.
  • The key-swap scam, where someone swaps a vehicle’s original key fob for a dummy fob, returning later to steal the vehicle.
  • Organized theft rings, which often target dealerships that keep keys in vehicle-mounted lockboxes or other easily accessible places.

Even if you’re never the target of theft, the benefits of investing in prevention measures such as employee training and secure key control far outweigh the consequences of dealing with the aftermath of stolen keys or inventory.

Stay Positive

You can’t control the market, but you have a say in how you respond to it. In fact, it’s imperative that you stay upbeat in less than ideal conditions. Being positive has a neurological impact, which in turn can increase job performance and employee morale.

In a Stanford University study of how being positive affects children, the lead researcher commented that positivity is as important as IQ to academic success. The group of children who participated in the study were better able to answer math problems, retain memories, and solve problems when they practiced being positive.

Only 25 percent of job success is related to IQ, and optimistic employees have clear advantages over cynical ones:

  • They recognize potential even in a less than ideal environment.
  • They’re motivated to work harder to overcome obstacles.
  • Their creativity flourishes, helping them come up with creative ways to reach their goals.
  • They inspire coworkers to be more successful at their jobs.

To encourage a positive culture, start by increasing employee satisfaction by making sure employees have access to the tools they need to do their jobs successfully, celebrating successes, and leading by example.

What changes will you make to increase your dealership’s success?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Don’t Let Employee Turnover Sabotage Your Key Control

Resignation letter in employee's box of belongings
Employee turnover is a topic you’ve likely heard a lot about recently. The total turnover rate — including terminations and voluntary departures — across all industries nationwide has increased each year since 2014. In 2018, the turnover rate reached 19.3 percent — up from 15.7 percent in 2014. In fact, the voluntary turnover rate on its own was at 14.2 percent in 2018.

While it isn’t impossible to reduce turnover in your organization, it can feel like fighting an uphill battle. This isn’t good for businesses, as it costs anywhere between six to nine months’ salary on average to replace a salaried employee.

However, the effects turnover has on businesses is more serious than you may realize. In addition to being expensive, attrition can also create holes in your organization’s key management practices. Here are the three main ways that turnover will sabotage your key control.

Former Employees Retain Key Access

When employees who had access to keys leave the company, failing to revoke access privileges and collect all keys in their possession immediately after they leave is a major risk to your facility. Imagine the damage they could do with a key or two — or even a couple hundred, like a man in North Dakota, who managed to steal 200 apartment keys, as well as 38 garage openers, master keys, and nine vehicle keys from two separate former employers.

While this may be an extreme example, it’s worth mentioning because it illustrates the potential consequences of not having the necessary tools or policies to secure your keys. An electronic key control system would be able to deter ex-employees from stealing your keys, thanks to features like biometric logins and a secure drawer that can only be opened by authorized users.

Once you have a system in place, it’s important to make sure you collect any keys in an employee’s possession when they leave, as well as strip any access they had to the keys on all systems to protect your organization from security risks related to former employees.

Experienced Employees Take Their Knowledge With Them

Another potential problem that turnover causes for key control is when your key control officer/administrator or other experienced employees leave your organization, taking valuable knowledge with them.

Whether an employee had valuable experience and detailed knowledge of key security policies, losing them hurts. But you can do multiple things to help overcome the loss.

One of these things is to document all key control policies, which helps new employees you bring in as replacements (more on that later). To encourage employees to follow policy, you can use an electronic key control system to help enforce your key management protocol. You could start by assigning user access levels for each employee. That way, anyone without access for certain keys won’t be able to sign them out — or steal them.

One final way to ensure you aren’t left out to dry when experienced employees leave is to assign more than one person to be in charge of key control. If possible, you should look at people with more than one year at your company and who are familiar with how things are run.

New Employees Aren’t up to Speed

When you experience turnover and replace the old employees with new ones, the new staff members lack the knowledge about the way your company runs and won’t be familiar with every policy right away. This lack of knowledge may cause them to make mistakes or be slow with decision making. Once again, this is a great example of why you should document all policies and ensure employees are familiar with them.

If you do have an electronic key control system in place already, new employees may experience a learning curve as they familiarize themselves with how your business uses the system. To make this process as smooth as possible, take advantage of all training resources your key control provider offers. These may include best practices guides, live video training, and phone support.

Experienced employees leaving and inexperienced ones coming in make the job of protecting keys a little more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. If you take the necessary precautions, you can stay on top of the key control game. Just because your employees are leaving doesn’t mean your key control has to go with them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Stop Wasting Time: Simplify Property Management With Key Control Technology

Collection of clocksAccording to the National Apartment Association, property management executives reported that one of their goals for 2019 was to use technology to increase efficiency, allowing employees to spend more time with customers. The year is winding down, but if your properties are still struggling with being bogged down with administrative tasks, it’s not too late to kick off the new decade with a fresh start.

Here are our top tips for using key control technology to put more time back in your on-site personnel’s days.

Manage Keys Electronically

The most obvious application of an electronic key control system is to manage keys. If you’re using an outdated method of managing keys, such as pegboards and manual logbooks, implementing electronic key control systems will save employees as much as two or three minutes to retrieve a key and document the transaction. It might not seem like much, but that time adds up from day to day. That’s not to mention the time they’ll save looking for lost or poorly labeled keys as well.

Collect Prospect Data by Scanning Driver’s Licenses

How much time do leasing agents spend entering prospect data when someone wants to tour a property? Cut down on that time by enabling employees to scan the prospect’s driver’s license to automatically capture a record with their contact information. Agents can then add notes about the floorplans prospects were interested in, which lead sources brought them to your property, and more. When it comes time to follow up, agents can automatically import prospect information into a follow-up message.

Automatically Notify Residents to Pick up Their Packages

Dealing with the sheer volume of packages that land in your leasing offices is a herculean challenge. There are plenty of solutions hitting the market, such as lockers and off-site storage facilities. However, if you’re looking for a time-saving solution that doesn’t involve sacrificing valuable office space, or if you don’t want to force residents to add one more stop in their already busy lives to pick up their packages, there are other options for handling deliveries more efficiently.

For example, a package logging application that uses a handheld barcode scanner and digital signature capture pad allows on-site personnel to scan packages when they’re received and automatically notify recipients by text or email when their packages are ready to be picked up.

Consolidate Applications

Using a single system to combine tasks such as updating employee time clocks, checking out keys, and managing work orders reduces the total number of applications employees have to interact with on a daily basis. This helps with the onboarding process as well. For example, a new employee needing to learn how to check out keys, clock in, and check on a work order would only have to learn their way around one software program rather than three separate ones to complete those tasks.

In addition, you’ll save time by being able to get a high-level view of each property by running reports on key activity, employee work schedules, and work order statuses.

Don’t waste any more time — learn what to look for in an electronic key control system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Client Spotlight: Hendrick Automotive Group

Robert Taylor, vice president of IT, Hendrick Automotive
Robert Taylor, vice president of IT, Hendrick Automotive Group
When thieves broke into one of Hendrick Automotive Group’s dealerships, they stuffed 200 keys into a pillowcase, then ventured out to the lot and drove off with six or seven cars.

The theft shook up the dealership’s operations. As Robert Taylor, Hendrick’s vice president of IT, explained, “The worst part about it really wasn’t that they took six or seven cars. It was that they took 200 keys.”

As a result, 200 vehicles had to go on stop sale because the OEM didn’t have enough key fobs to replace the stolen ones — nor did it have enough vehicles to replace the unsellable inventory.

To prevent similar scenarios from occurring, Hendrick’s executive team wanted a key control solution that its dealerships could use in sales and service to protect each dealership’s inventory as well as customer vehicles being serviced.

The problem was, the group’s dealerships stored keys in a variety of places, including in boxes, vehicle-mounted lockboxes, offices, and other locations throughout the dealership. That made it difficult to audit key control practices across multiple dealerships.

“We’d have to call a hundred dealerships and pull a hundred different reports,” said Taylor.

The Hendrick team didn’t have to look far for a solution. “We had multiple versions of KeyTrak,” said CEO Ed Brown. “Here we had a great solution that wasn’t being implemented consistently across the company.”

To learn more about how Hendrick Automotive Group worked with KeyTrak to create an enterprise solution to solve its key management and reporting challenges, read the full case study.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

How Secure Are Your Patrol Cars With Shared Keys?

Patrol cars
Without asking your department fleet manager (or checking your records, if you are the fleet manager), do you know how many vehicles in your patrol fleet share the same key? Can officers access and drive multiple vehicles with a single key?

Maybe your cars came with matching keys from the manufacturer or the upfitter. Maybe your department likes having shared keys because it makes it easier for officers to take a car and go when they need one. But is that convenience worth the security risk represented by shared keys?

Maintaining a patrol fleet with keys that match multiple vehicles (or even all of your vehicles) can turn into a far bigger nightmare than your officers being delayed by a few seconds to check out a key. Let’s take a look at some risks you should be aware of when it comes to shared keys.

Ease of Access

The ease of switching from car to car might be one of the biggest benefits of sharing patrol car keys across models. If officers are going out on patrol or need to change cars quickly — especially if they just dealt with a detainee’s mess at 3 a.m. — shared keys make it easy to get going quickly without dealing with a key management officer or a key/vehicle check-out procedure.

However, that ease of access for your officers is also ease of access for anybody who finds a key. If one of those keys lands in the wrong hands, the holder would have access to any number of your cars or even patrol cars in other jurisdictions. The vehicles could be taken and misused, or items inside the cars such as radios, weapons, or computers could also be stolen.

If multiple officers have matching keys with minimal oversight, your department also lacks accountability to manage how the officers are using those keys or if they’re ever returned when they’re no longer needed. Consider the question we started with: Do you know how many shared keys are floating around your department? Do you know where they are?

Rekeying Cars and Replacing Keys

Recall that even one missing key that gives access to multiple vehicles could be a major security risk for your fleet and other department assets. Once you’re aware that a key is missing, what’s going to be your response? Will you simply hope that the key turns up or that it will never be misused by whoever finds it?

You’re more likely to spend a lot of time and money on rekeying portions of your fleet to protect it from theft and misuse. One police department spent $140,000 on rekeying its entire fleet because it thought two sets of keys were unaccounted for — even though the keys were ultimately found. Also consider that you’ll have to replace the keys themselves, and modern key fobs carry a hefty price tag.

So what can be done to protect your department’s fleet?

Use Unique Keys and Fobs for Individual Vehicles

Sure, rekeying your entire fleet to unique keys for each vehicle is going to be a big expense, but it’s the best method for avoiding escalating costs as shared keys go missing over time. For some departments, replacing a single vehicle could represent a large portion of the total budget, and leaving vehicles at risk with shared keys shouldn’t even be an option.

In addition, would you rather scramble to get your fleet rekeyed after a missing key incident, or be able to plan it and work it into your budget over time? Protect your fleet with unique and properly managed keys.

Take Advantage of Key Management Systems

So you've rekeyed your fleet and now you have several unique patrol vehicle keys that need to be managed. It might seem like a headache on the surface, particularly for your key management officer. Somebody has to make sure keys are where they’re supposed to be and that logs are being properly maintained. However, key management doesn’t have to be a nightmare — even for a large fleet.

Consider using an electronic key control system that secures keys in a central location and gives officers a quick and easy way to check out keys without a management officer present. Such a system should track exactly who took keys and when, give administrative staff a verifiable audit trail, and hold officers accountable.

Your patrol vehicles play a critical role in your department operations. Whether you share keys across vehicles or not, it’s important for you to take steps to protect against the loss, theft, or misuse of keys. What have you done to make sure misplaced fleet keys don’t crash your department budget?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Customer Tip: Don’t Forget About Spare Keys

Keys on ringAre there any keys around your facility that you’re not accounting for? You can have all your primary keys securely stored inside your KeyTrak system, but if you have copies of keys floating around your business, you haven’t fully mitigated your key control risk.

Some examples of keys you might not have in your KeyTrak system include:

  • Building keys used for temporary access or in case the primary key is lost
  • Duplicate keys for dealership inventory 
  • Valet keys for fleet vehicles
  • Extra desk drawer or filing cabinet keys

To protect all your keys, follow the steps below:

  • Run a report of all the keys your key control system currently manages.
  • Make a list of which keys have spares and how many. If you’re not sure if spares exist, add those keys to the list anyway and look into whether copies exist.
  • Determine the location of all duplicate keys and add them to your KeyTrak system. Attach each spare key to a separate tag from the primary key.

If your system doesn’t have enough space to accommodate the additional keys, contact our corporate sales team to add additional drawers or key panels.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What Your Dealership Needs to Know About Modern Vehicle Theft

Vehicle technology has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade. People can make phone calls hands-free, map out trips, effortlessly maneuver into any parking spot, and avoid blind spot collisions — all with the help of their vehicles.

But despite the increasing sophistication of in-vehicle technology — some even say because of it — vehicle thefts have been on the rise since 2014.

Thieves are becoming savvy in their techniques, exploiting vehicle technology vulnerabilities, careless driver mistakes, and dealership process deficiencies. Not only do these thefts cost billions of dollars a year, they waste resources as police spend time and taxpayer dollars investigating incidents and tracking down stolen vehicles.

Doing your part to reduce theft means familiarizing yourself with thieves’ tactics, protecting your dealership’s inventory, and educating your customers on how to protect their property.

Common Vehicle Theft Tactics  

Just as technology is constantly evolving, so too are thieves’ methods. Deterring car thieves begins with familiarizing yourself with modern vehicle theft techniques.

Key Theft
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Whereas thieves used to need to hotwire a vehicle to steal it, today it’s often as simple as using the key. Getting their hands on a key isn’t always difficult, thanks to people leaving keys in unlocked cars and dealerships storing keys in vehicle-mounted lockboxes.

Key Swapping
Victims: Dealerships

In what’s called the key-swap scam, potential vehicle buyers will visit a dealership asking to test drive a vehicle. After the salesperson hands over the keys, the supposed buyer covertly pockets them and returns a counterfeit pair to the salesperson. The thief later returns to steal the vehicle using the stolen key.

Relay Theft
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Keyless entry technology makes it easy for thieves to steal vehicles via relay theft, using cheap relay devices they can easily purchase online.

In this two-person job, one thief stands near the vehicle holding one relay device, with the other thief holding another relay device near where the key fob is kept. The signal from the vehicle’s locking system is transmitted through the devices to the fob, which then returns a response through the transmitters back to the vehicle, tricking the vehicle into thinking the fob is nearby.

One of the crooks will then simply climb into the car and drive off. The whole process takes less than a minute, as shown in a video captured by police in the UK.

Identity Fraud
Victims: Dealerships

Some criminals will use the identities of people with good credit to finance vehicles with zero down. Telltale signs of a fraudulent purchase include:

  • One or two people being dropped off at the dealership
  • Knowing the exact car they want to buy
  • Being out of state
  • Rushing the deal
  • Using their phone frequently to communicate with someone throughout the transaction 
  • Wanting to drive the vehicle off the lot the same day

Thieves using this scheme often visit multiple dealerships, using a different identity at each one.

VIN Switching
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Also called vehicle identification number (VIN) cloning, VIN switching scams involve doctoring a vehicle’s original VIN to conceal the fact that it’s stolen.

This is no amateur scam. In Edmonton, Canada, police busted a VIN cloning operation in which thieves would steal vehicles, change the VINs, and register them as active vehicles — all in an average of four days. The thieves weren’t picky about how they acquired the vehicles, using stolen key fobs to lift half of the vehicles from private owners and half from dealerships.

While the list above describes the methods you’ll hear most about in the news, it’s by no means comprehensive. Stay alert for new methods as they crop up.

Preventing Crime on Your Lot

Once you’re familiar with how thieves operate, be proactive about protecting your business and your inventory by following a few critical guidelines.

Don’t Neglect Basic Security

Deterring theft begins with basic security measures, such as lighting, fencing and gates, surveillance systems, guards, and alarm systems. While these steps alone won’t thwart professional thieves, they’ll make their jobs more difficult.

Secure Your Keys

Since using the keys is one of the easiest ways for thieves to steal a vehicle, store keys in a locked room, preferably away from outside windows and doors to deter relay theft. For added security, keep keys inside an electronic key control system with locking steel drawers and the capability for text alerts and audible alarms in the event of a potential security breach.

Using a system that requires you to attach keys to a tag with a metal ring will also make it harder for thieves to swap the original key for a counterfeit during a test drive.

Heed Warning Signs 

Look out for potential red flags in a sales transaction. If someone is acting nervous or something doesn’t seem right, go with your gut and take the time to double check the buyer’s information. When dealing with used vehicles, always examine the VIN for signs of tampering and verify that the seller’s name and the VIN are consistent across all vehicle documents.

Collaborate With Third Parties 

Seek guidance from third parties such as your security technology partners, local law enforcement, and insurance company. You’ll be able to stay up to date on the latest theft tactics and get tips for protecting your business.

Thieves are smart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outsmart them. By staying vigilant and taking precautions, you can make your dealership a less attractive target.

Educating Customers 

Educating your customers on how to protect their vehicles builds trust and shows that you’re willing to serve them even after they drive their vehicle off the lot. In addition, letting them know that you’ve implemented safeguards within your own dealership to protect vehicles in sales and service makes them more likely to feel comfortable bringing their vehicle to your service drive.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise about preventing theft could be as simple as handing the customer a flyer with helpful tips along with their paperwork when they purchase a vehicle or sending an email with a link to a video.

Here are some steps vehicle owners can take to protect their property:

  • Park your vehicle inside a garage when possible. 
  • Always lock your vehicle and never leave keys inside.
  • Avoid leaving keys outside your home (e.g., under a doormat) or just inside the entryway.
  • Store key fobs inside a Faraday pouch (a bag designed to block various types of signals, preventing hacking).
  • Use locks on your steering wheel and/or wheels. 
  • Don’t leave personal items or valuables inside the vehicle. If it’s unavoidable, lock the items in the trunk. 
  • Don’t keep documents with private information inside your vehicle. 

Taking this extra step to inform your customers doesn’t require a lot of expense or effort, but it’ll pay dividends in customer loyalty.

Vehicle thefts might be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your dealership or your customers are helpless to stop them. Don’t be a part of the trend.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Are You Overlooking This Security Gap on Your Campus?

Professor speaks in college lecture hall
If your college or university receives federal funding — which many major public and private universities do — your public safety or campus police department is hopefully putting the finishing touches on your annual security report (ASR) as required by the Clery Act.

ASRs must be published by October 1 of each year and must include campus crime statistics for the previous three calendar years, steps your institution has taken to improve campus safety, and police statements regarding:

  • Crime reporting
  • Campus facility and security and access
  • Law enforcement authority
  • Incidence of alcohol and drug use
  • Prevention of and response to sexual assault, domestic or dating violence, and a stalking

Not only do on-campus crimes affect the personal safety of your students or staff, they can also hit your university's pocketbook since failing to report certain crimes in your ASR can turn into major fines. As of February 2019, the minimum Clery fine is $57,317 per violation, and penalties can reach much higher figures. One state university, for example, was fined $4.5 million for its failure to protect students from sexual abuse.

While we can't help you with adhering to the Clery Act or completing your ASR, we do have some ideas about why having a secure campus is critical to your university's long-term success and how you can improve your security measures to keep your students and staff safe.

What are the consequences of security gaps?

Fines shouldn't be your only concern when it comes to adhering to the Clery Act. After all, the real point is to protect your students. Better security measures discourage crimes, hold employees and staff accountable, prevent internal threats, and promote good security practices on campus.

Of course, fines can be a major headache for your university, but they pale in comparison to the ramifications of a crime. Not only are your students and staff at risk of physical or sexual harm as the result of such crimes, a high level of incidents reflects poorly on your university. A hostile environment discourages students from attending your university, deters organizations from interacting with your institution and holding events on your campus, and indirectly affects the availability of grants and research opportunities.

What should you do to improve campus security?

There are obvious security measures that have likely long been a part of your campus security strategy — door locks, security cameras, patrol officers. But those shouldn't be the only steps you take to prevent crimes. Having a way to hold university staff and outside vendors accountable for their access to various areas on your campus is critical to providing a safe and secure environment.

Every day, your campus probably sees anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people pass through its various doors. Locks are great, but how useful are they if your keys — even electronic access cards or fobs — are poorly managed? How many of your campus keys go missing each year? How much have you spent on rekeying doors because keys given to fired staff members or recently graduated student workers weren't turned in? What happens when a master key goes missing?

That's where key control can make a difference in your campus security strategy.

How can key control close the security gap?

Whether keys are needed for short-term work, such as an outside vendor providing specialized maintenance in a secure building, or for long-term issue to university staff, you need to know exactly who has keys and when they took them.

Consider using an electronic key control system that secures keys and automatically tracks user access, holding employees accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. The system should be able to send management alerts when keys aren't returned in a given time, helping you respond quickly to a potential security vulnerability.

You should use your electronic key control system to manage long-term issue keys as well since even one unreturned key could fall through the gaps and be misused by a fired employee — even two years later. Be sure to run routine reports on key activity and perform audits to make sure long-term issue keys are still with the people who are supposed to have them and keys that should be returned are tracked down.

As you prepare your Clery Act ASR, are you confident that your campus already does everything it can to protect its students? Take your security strategy to the next level by better managing your keys.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Cost of Losing Your Dealership's Keys

Updated September 10, 2019

Keys are on ground with car in background
On a normal business day at your dealership, keys pass through dozens of hands. They're passed back and forth between salespeople, sales managers, porters, and service technicians, which can quickly lead to disorganization.

If your dealership is still using pegboards or other manual methods to account for vehicle keys, there’s not an accurate way to determine how long someone has had a key checked out or even who checked it out. When keys go missing, the costs mount quickly.

The Cost of Replacing Keys

Not only is mismanaging keys unproductive and frustrating for employees, it leads to unnecessary expenses. In an informal survey of representatives from seven dealerships and automotive groups of various brands, we found that the cost of replacing keys ranged from $12 to $220, with an average cost of $84. The cost of replacing fobs was anywhere from $49 to $550, with an average cost of $191.

Respondents reported that each month, they lost anywhere from one to 60 keys, with the average being nine and the most common response being one to five. If your dealership lost five sets of keys and fobs at an average total replacement cost of $275, that’s $1,375 a month and $16,500 a year. That’s less the average of nine sets, which would amount to $29,700 annually!

Dealership Key Loss Graphic

The Trickle-Down Effect of Ineffective Key Management

Key replacement costs add up quickly, but that’s not all you have to worry about. Often, lost or unidentified keys results in impatient customers waiting for test drives, affecting the customer experience.

So what can you do to minimize the impact of missing keys? The first step is to make sure you know where your keys are at any given time and ensure only authorized employees can access them. If a key does slip through the cracks, have a system in place to be alerted that the key hasn’t been returned so you can look into the situation further.

It might not seem like a big deal to shell out a couple hundred dollars for a missing set of keys every now and then, but consider the long-term effects. If missing keys are costing you sales, how much is a solution for that problem worth to you?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Five Tips for Training Millennials on New Technology

Group of multi-ethnic people in board room
Millennials are now the largest segment in the workplace. Since most of the employees you hire are going to be millennials, you’ll need to know how to train them effectively when your business implements new technology systems — especially with customer expectations at an all-time high. Employees who don’t know (or don’t care) what they’re doing will struggle to provide a good experience, and you’ll start to see the ill effects that untrained workers can have on your business.

Here are some tips to help you train millennials effectively on new technologies.

Keep It Flexible

Millennials like to believe they’re in control. They want to be able to do what they want, when they want to do it. More and more, this group of employees is demanding flexibility in the workplace, and that includes training. One way to avoid frustrating them is allowing them multiple time periods to train, with the ability to choose what works best for them. Putting them under time constraints or offering training at inconvenient times make them lose their sense of freedom.

Keeping training flexible is one of the keys to a millennial’s heart. But this recommendation isn’t just for millennials – trainees of all ages can take advantage of flexible training options.

Stay on Topic

Because the average attention span of millennials is 8 seconds, you need to avoid getting off topic. If you go at a slow pace or spend too long on one subject, you could lose their interest. When employees are disinterested, they won’t learn the necessary information to do their jobs. Additionally, sitting in training for too long makes the mind wander, which results in less learning.

Any extra information that isn’t considered essential to use the new technology shouldn’t be included. If any of your employees need extra assistance or further training, don’t make the ones who don’t need help sit there too. Make sure those who need it know who to contact if they have questions, need help troubleshooting an issue, or need additional training. If your tech vendor offers extra support resources, give employees the information they need to utilize these resources.

On the other hand, if you don’t spend enough time on training to make sure trainees have a good grasp on the technology and how it’ll help your business, they might not meet your expectations. Either way, your business will see poor results if you don’t find the sweet spot for training time.

Break It Up

You can help employees stay focused on training by separating trainees by job title. For example, salespeople might not need to be trained along with managers. By separating training sessions, you can ensure that only necessary information is being shared with each trainee.

Another way to keep boredom from setting in is allowing for frequent breaks. Sitting in one spot all day learning the ins and outs of a new technology isn’t considered fun (most of the time). Using short breaks lets your trainees stretch their legs, check their phones, or eat a snack.

Never Stop Training

Just because your employees are done with official training doesn’t mean they should stop learning. Millennials are more likely to be disengaged with their work – the Gallup Organization reports only 29 percent say they’re engaged with their work – so it’s important to keep their jobs interesting and fresh.

You can check if your technology providers offer training, and if they do, encourage your employees to take advantage of it. Your vendor may have written tutorials, phone training, or prerecorded videos to choose from. For your convenience, some companies offer on-site training at your facility or consultations via webcam. Helping your employees learn more about the technology and systems they work with will not only improve their job performance but also fight apathy.

Give Valuable Feedback

One of the most important parts of life is communication. It doesn’t matter how old people are — if they don’t communicate, they won’t get along. Millennials are no exception. Setting clear expectations and goals is key.

Make sure they understand what’s being asked of them, and return later with feedback on how they performed. Be honest with them, and they’ll respect you and appreciate any advice you give them. This gives them the opportunity to learn and improve, which is one of their biggest goals.

Millennials are taking over the workforce, and the sooner you know how to manage them, the sooner your business will start reaping the benefits of the valuable skills they bring to the table. If trained correctly, they can unlock the full potential of themselves and your systems.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Challenges to Managing a University Fleet

Fleet of vans
Universities utilize a large number of vehicles every day for various operations. Whether a vehicle transports students to and from campus or carries vital maintenance equipment, each one is extremely valuable both in purpose and replacement cost.

However, meeting maintenance schedules and keeping the fleet running aren't the only challenges. Depending on how many vehicles are in your fleet, you could be dealing with hundreds or even thousands of keys. Having a system in place to assist with key management is critical to keeping vehicles secure and preventing misuse.

Let's go over some of the specific challenges you'll face when managing your fleet's keys, and how you can overcome them.

Dealing With Misplaced and Unreturned Keys

Any time you give keys to an employee, there's a possibility that those keys will get misplaced or stolen. Whether an employee forgets a key on a bench or a stranger swipes it from an unsuspecting staff member, the end results is a vehicle — or even an entire fleet — left exposed. Your department is then faced with buying an expensive replacement key or having the vehicle rekeyed completely (more on that later).

The potential for losing a key could be compounded by student workers who have access to fleet vehicles, such as campus buses. Studies have set the average attention span of Generation Z, which makes up the bulk of your student workforce, at around eight seconds. From smartphones and social media to class schedules and projects, your student workers already face a number of daily distractions that could lead to a misplaced key. It's important to keep them on the right track and ensure the keys they use end up where they belong at the end of their shifts.

Replacing Locks and Keys

Like we mentioned earlier, when keys are lost or stolen, you may have to pay to get one or even all of your vehicles rekeyed.

Though it wasn't a university fleet, the Anchorage Police Department found out the hard way that the price for rekeying vehicles can get extremely high. The department paid $140,000 to change the locks on all of its patrol cars after it suspected that keys were taken during a robbery at a local tire shop. The department discovered that certain keys could start any patrol car of the same make and model, prompting the massive key change.

While vehicles in your fleet might not share keys across multiple cars, you could still incur substantial rekeying and key replacement costs if even one key were to go missing. Replacing modern key fobs can be expensive, with costs ranging anywhere between $50 and $400, depending on the vehicle brand. But that's for the fobs alone since programming will be an additional price of $50 to $100. How many locks and keys can you replace before making a serious dent in your budget?

Keeping Your Campus Safe

Unnecessary expenses aren't the only thing your department faces when keys are lost. Even if you think you have the best policies for managing your fleet, poorly secure keys leave your entire university and students at risk.

Stolen vehicles can be used in criminal activities or lead to traffic collisions, affecting students' lives and your university's safety reputation. That's in addition to the potential that your university could be held liable for damages resulting from the misuse of a stolen fleet vehicle if your key control practices are ruled inadequate.

Finding a Solution

Controlling your fleet keys doesn't have to be a nightmare. Consider using an electronic key control system that secures and automatically tracks access to keys to mitigate security risks and remove uncertainty about who's using your vehicles and why.

Limit the risk of full-time or student employees misplacing or losing keys by holding them accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. An electronic key control system should be able to alert a manager if a key isn't returned within a set amount of time, giving you the ability to react quickly and know exactly who should have the key. This encourages employees to practice good stewardship of keys.

Key management might be the last thing you worry about when it comes to your university fleet of vehicles. But when a key gets lost or stolen, you'll wish key security had always been at the top of your mind. Get ahead of the risk and use an electronic key control system to manage your fleet's keys.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

How to Make Your Multifamily Property Appeal to College Students and Their Parents

Young woman with mother moving into apartment
Shared bathrooms. Crowded laundry facilities. Cinder-block rooms the size of a postage stamp. These are just a few of the realities of dorm living that drive 36 percent of private-university students and 60 percent of public-university students to live off-campus.

Some higher education institutions that are experiencing a shortage of on-campus housing are even offering students incentives to find alternatives to dorm living.

If your multifamily property is located near a college or university and would like to increase occupancy, targeting these college students could be the answer, even if your property isn’t a dedicated student housing community. The key is appealing to students and their parents.

Attracting Student Residents

When looking for off-campus housing, students have fairly practical expectations. They want basic amenities such as computer/printing stations, high-speed Wi-Fi, in-unit washers and dryers, and parking.

Students also tend to be budget conscious and appreciate value. Living in an off-campus apartment might not be much more expensive than living on campus (in fact, it might even be less expensive!). The national average cost of room and board in a dormitory is $8,887-$10,089, which averages out to $987-$1,121 each month for a nine-month school year. For an apartment shared with a roommate for a 12-month lease, the average cost of rent, utilities, internet, and groceries, amounts to $895 a month.

While basic amenities like internet access and a convenient place to do laundry might not seem like huge selling features, be sure to highlight them when marketing to college students. To emphasize affordability, be upfront with all costs (rent, fees, etc.) and show cost breakdowns for the various floorplans you offer. Bear in mind that this tactic is likely to be less effective if you’re located in a more expensive city such as New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco.

Appealing to Parents of Students

When it comes to getting college students to sign a lease with your property, getting parents on board is critical, especially if they’ll be the ones writing the rent check. Research by Conversion Logix found that while 18-24-year-olds searched the most for student housing, there were a significant number of 45-54-year-olds searching as well. This indicates that parents are on the hunt for apartments for their college students.

When parents help their children select a college, safety is a top consideration. In a Wearsafe survey, over half of parents said they were “very concerned” about their child’s safety while away at college. If you want your property to appeal to parents of prospective students, security is a key selling feature to build a good reputation for your property and put parents’ minds at ease.

While you likely already have security measures in place, such as lighting or gated access, don’t neglect one essential component of a safe community: measures to control employees’ and contractors’ access to keys. Put yourself in parents’ shoes. How would you feel about an employee or contractor having access to a master key for the apartment in which your student lives?

Unfortunately, misuse of keys can easily go unnoticed if employees or contractors have a legitimate reason to be using them. For example, maintenance personnel need access to keys in order to address maintenance issues. But what happens if someone begins using these keys to unlawfully enter units? What if contractors are given access to keys without adequate oversight?

To hold employees accountable and mitigate security risks, implement a process for creating an verifiable audit trail that shows who checked out a key, when they used it, and how long they had it. If you use an electronic key control system that allows you to receive text or email alerts for overdue keys, take advantage of that feature.

By balancing college students’ and their parents’ expectations, you can present your property as the ideal place for college students to call home.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Stop Tool Theft From Wrecking Your Service Department

Open box of mechanic tools
With competition from independent shops, increasing adoption of electric vehicles, and the specter of self-driving vehicles, dealership service departments have a tough road ahead. Despite these challenges, one thing remains true: Fixed ops is the backbone of the dealership.

There are ample opportunities for increasing revenue in the service department, but there’s one issue that hurts profits and could even contribute to employee turnover: tool theft. Let’s examine how this problem affects your service drive and technicians.

Dealership-Owned Specialty Tools

If you buy a lot of specialty tools, you know that tool costs can skyrocket, especially if your shop does body work and you’re required to purchase duplicates of tools from specific brands to meet various manufacturers’ certification standards.

A rivet gun, for example, can run $8,000 to $12,000. If you own a certain brand of rivet gun and a manufacturer requires a different one, you’d have to fork out another several thousand dollars just to be able to work on a specific make of vehicle.

If you had even one $8,000 tool stolen, how long would it take you to recoup that cost?

Employee-Owned Tools

Staff attrition is one of the biggest threats to the auto mechanic industry, with 30 percent of dealership technicians leaving their jobs each year. Some even leave the field altogether. It doesn’t help that fewer people are graduating from postsecondary tech training programs.

One of the major factors deterring people from the field is the cost of purchasing tools, which sources estimate is anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. Some technicians incur debt to pay for these tools, which takes a toll on employees’ career satisfaction.

Imagine how demoralizing it would be for an employee to have invested tens of thousands of dollars in these tools — their livelihood — only to have them stolen. Unfortunately, there have been several reported cases of this scenario happening at dealership service departments over the years:

One insurance executive suggested that businesses offer tool insurance to technicians as an employment benefit. An even better perk, however, is to help avoid tool theft in the first place.

Preventing Tool Theft

Regardless of who footed the bill for the tools in your service department, thefts will put a dent in your profits. By the time you tally up opportunity costs, insurance deductibles, and employee turnover, you’re looking at an expense that’s substantially more than the actual price tag of the equipment. To prevent tool theft, start with the tips below:

  • Require employees to lock up dealership-owned tools.
  • Encourage employees to lock their tools away in a secure location at the end of each workday.
  • Secure keys to tool chests, cabinets, or rooms where tools are stored. If you’re already using an electronic key control system in your service department to protect customer keys, consider using the system to manage tool storage keys.
  • Consider storing diagnostic scanners, tablets, and other small tools in electronic lockers that can be controlled with your electronic key control system.

By taking steps to protect the tools in your service department, you’ll not only protect your hard-earned investment but show your employees you value them. Looking for more ways to maximize your profits in the service department? Check out “How Electronic Key Control Can Help Your Service Department Get Reimbursed for Shuttle Rides.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Human Side of Poor Key Control

Man with head in hands
Would you want to be known as the organization that allowed a thief to pilfer the property with a master key? What would you say to the media if someone stole a vehicle from your organization and used that vehicle in another crime? How would you rebuild trust with customers if an employee abused their key access to steal someone’s personal information or assets? How long would it take you to recoup profits lost from reputation damage?

There are real business consequences to poor key control. But what you might not have thought about is how misuse of keys and other assets negatively affects people’s personal lives — perhaps even your own or your loved ones’ lives.

For example, lost or stolen keys waste employees’ time and inconvenience customers who have entrusted their personal property to your business. In extreme situations, mismanaging keys can even put lives at risk, such as if an intruder steals an apartment key and hurts a resident or if a thief is involved in a fatal accident while driving a vehicle stolen from a dealership.

That’s why it’s vital for your organization to secure keys and reduce security vulnerabilities. Let’s take a closer look at how poor key control impacts employees, customers, and the community.


As mentioned earlier, when keys are lost, employees are forced to spend time dealing with interrupted operations, rekeying, and more. If unsecured keys are stolen, that can spell additional trouble for staff.

For example, after a car was stolen from a repair shop in Michigan, employees were concerned that  insurance costs would increase and the repair shop would lose credibility, hurting employees’ ability to provide for their families. At a Georgia prison, mishandled keys endangered corrections officers (COs) by enabling an inmate to swipe a key and open other inmates’ cells.


Customers and stakeholders also face the consequences of poor key control. In the automotive industry, there are plenty of horror stories involving customers whose cars were stolen while they were being serviced. After one man’s vehicle disappeared from the service drive, management told the customer that if they couldn’t locate the vehicle, the customer would be stuck replacing it himself.

Just as mishandled keys in a dealership’s service drive leave customers’ vehicles at risk, improperly secured and tracked keys at multifamily communities, assisted living facilities, and college dorms leave people's homes vulnerable.

If keys aren’t stored in a secure location with proper checkout methods in place, employees, vendors, or burglars can use these keys to enter a resident's home without authorization. There are countless headlines about intruders stealing cash, prescription medications, or other personal items. Although less common, there have also been cases of violent crimes against residents.

Additionally, ineffective key management can expose customers to data breaches and identity theft if employees abuse their key access to obtain devices holding confidential data. That was the case at a medical facility where a former IT employee stole a hard drive containing sensitive customer information and sold it online.

The Community

In some cases, the effects of unsecured keys can extend beyond employees and customers to the broader community.

One common way an unauthorized key user could put the community at risk is by driving a vehicle without permission, whether it’s a company fleet car, dealership inventory, a delivery truck, or a government vehicle. If that driver is involved in an accident, they could harm pedestrians, other drivers, or city infrastructure. In one Oregon town, for example, a car struck a power pole, leaving the entire town and surrounding areas without power.

A rare, but still concerning, scenario is a prisoner using a key to escape from prison or jail, posing a danger to society. At a New Mexico jail, an inmate swiped a key that had been left hanging in a lock. He then used the key to access an area containing housing pipes, where he and three other inmates — a group that included a convicted killer and murder suspect — escaped through a hole in the roof.

While everyone is responsible for their own actions, you can take steps to avoid putting your employees, your customers, and the wider community at risk. Investing in an effective key control system is one of those steps. Most, if not all, of the examples mentioned here could have been avoided if keys were securely stored in a way that only authorized people could remove them.

When deciding how you’ll secure your keys, considering the implications to your organization is important, but don’t forget to consider how people’s personal lives could be affected by your decision.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Condo Master Key Control: Five Risks and How to Solve Them

Burglar breaking in with key
Fueled by a heroin addiction, a maintenance technician at a Massachusetts condominium community robbed 19 separate residents over a period of a few years. The monetary value of the items amounted to several thousand dollars, but worse than that, many were irreplaceable heirlooms passed down through multiple generations.

In Canada, a condominium complex spent $30,000 to $40,000 to rekey its building after someone stole a bike from a storage unit.

The common thread in these stories is master keys. The maintenance technician abused his access to the master key to enter residents’ homes, and someone stole a master key from the fire safety box at the Canadian complex to let themselves in to the storage unit.

It’s not uncommon for condo associations to keep master keys on file (or at least copies of each resident’s key), but is the way you handle keys putting your association and residents at risk?

Master Key Risks

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to keep master keys out of the hands of unauthorized people and prevent authorized key holders from abusing their access. Some common issues include the following:

No Rekeying After Construction

During construction, contractors use a master key system to allow them to move easily throughout the building. Once the development is complete, it’s difficult to know which contractors and other vendors might still have master keys to the building. If your condo building hasn’t been rekeyed since it was built, you’re leaving homeowners vulnerable.

Unauthorized Duplication

Stamping keys with “Do Not Duplicate” provides a false sense of security. The Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) advises members to discourage customers from relying on this inscription as a security precaution, as it’s not legally binding unless the law prohibits duplication of the keys (such as keys used by the Department of Defense).

If someone wants a copy of a key badly enough, they aren’t likely to let the “Do Not Duplicate” warning stop them. A quick Google search reveals strategies for disguising an inscription, such as hiding it with a rubber cover or covering it with tape and writing a unit number or “Shed Key” on it, so the locksmith is more likely to make copies. There are even local threads dedicated to recommending locksmiths that will ignore the inscription.

Key Abuse

Assuming someone is authorized to use a master key as part of their job, can you be sure that they’re using the key for legitimate reasons? As one lawyer told The Palm Beach Post, even if condo associations have a right of access, it’s “not to be abused by a maintenance man who needs a private place, and not so a maintenance man can use a bathroom.” Failing to abide by these standards can lead to legal issues.

Key Theft

The risk of key theft goes up if you keep keys in an insecure place, such as a fire box that can be easily pried open, a pegboard from which keys can be swiped, or in a desk drawer that’s left unlocked. If you don’t maintain a verifiable access log to track who’s removed keys and when, that risk increases even more.

Carte Blanche Electronic Access

Smart locks, also called electronic locks or keyless entry, give residents the ability to unlock their doors with codes, fobs, or even their smartphones. Keyless entry is convenient, but it does come with more administrative effort than some property managers may realize. If the property uses a system with security tokens, condo association employees may choose to program a master access method that opens all unit doors. This practice presents many of the same risks as master keys.

How to Protect Your Community

To protect your community, follow the below best practices for key security:

Rekey When Necessary

If your building hasn’t been rekeyed since construction or if a master key has gone missing, it’s critical that you rekey to protect residents. To avoid this expense in the future, take steps to secure the keys in your care.

Inform Homeowners

Let homeowners know if you have a master key on file, how you’ll secure it, who will use it, and in what circumstances it’ll be used. If possible, request individual copies of unit keys instead of maintaining a master. Also notify residents when the key to their home has been removed and why.

Keep Accurate Logs

Keep a log of which employees and board members are authorized to access which keys and when. Be sure to update this record and collect any unreturned keys when an employee leaves or when new board members are elected.

In case you need to investigate a possible issue with key abuse, ensure you have a way to pull reports on demand. Using an electronic key control system to create an electronic log minimizes the possibility for human error and manipulation.

Implement the Right System From the Right Partner

To secure keys, implement a patented key control system (a recommendation that’s supported by the ALOA). If you use electronic locks and use preprogrammed access fobs or proximity cards, consider using an electronic key control system to restrict access to those tokens. Just be sure to choose your key control partner carefully — one of homeowners’ top complaints about associations is when management chooses low-quality or unethical vendors.

Train Employees and Board Members

Implement periodic key control training for employees and board members. This ensures that those responsible for keys know what’s expected of them and are aware of the consequences for failing to follow your key control procedures.

Without taking the right precautions, your master keys could be mastering you. By taking steps to secure keys and hold authorized users accountable, you can avoid costly security breaches and put homeowners’ minds at ease.